An Interview with Colin Barnes


I reviewed Salt, by Colin Barnes on Tuesday. I asked him a few questions about his work:

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I suppose it goes back to when I was just a young kid, writing out scripts from my favorite shows. Then, as I went through school and learned more about story telling the bug bit. I never really thought it’d be possible to be a full time writer back then so it was never a realistic passion until my early twenties. Fifteen years later and I made it a reality.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Good question! I sometimes think it’s difficult for the write to be able to answer these types of questions as readers experience our writing very differently to how we do. We don’t always see the same things as readers do, but despite that, if pressed, I would say my quirk is in the characters. I don’t enjoy writing stereotypical, or even expected characters. Somewhere in the story I like to have a character(s) that are a little strange and on the borders of the norms.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have three passions outside of writing: music, reading, and mech modeling. Though I often listen to music when I write. Reading, too, is tied to writing in that I often read for inspiration or research. Even if I’m reading for ‘fun’ I find myself analyzing the text from a writer/editor point of view. Which leaves mech modeling as my main interest that isn’t tied into writing. I find it therapeutic to build the kits and modify them. As a fan of old mech-based IPs such as Battletech, Gundam, and of course, Transformers, it’s a way for me to stay in touch with my more childlike side and balance with my serious writing-related activities.

In one sentence, tell us what your novel is all about.
I can go one better and use a single word: Survival.

What inspired you to write Salt?
It was a combination of things. The first was perhaps the most common reason why writers write a book: I felt I could do better than some of the other books in the genre I had read. I grew dissatisfied with post-apocalyptic fiction in that it all seemed to be following each other, featuring zombies, or some other gun-fantasy. I wanted to get back to fundamentals and explore human nature. The other main reason was that I wanted to write a book that was diametrically opposed to my previous series (Code Breakers), which was hi-tech in nature. By setting a story in a drowned world, it took technology out of the equation and brought the story squarely back into the domain of character. Having that kind of restraint meant I had to get creative.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing Salt?
Jim, the second protagonist. His character grew organically and went against all my plans and expectations. His role and personal journey seemed to come from nowhere. I went with it and it turned into one of my favorite aspects of the book.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do get some messages from time to time. Luckily, most have been positive, telling me how much they liked the story or how they could relate to some of the characters. My favorite correspondence from a reader was from a guy who worked on offshore oilrigs—an environment similar to the flotilla in Salt. He really understood the characters and the situation they were in. He told me how the book helped him deal with his isolation, which was nice to hear. As a writer, we mostly focus on the book and it’s success (or not) so it’s nice to hear that our works can have an effect on people beyond just telling an entertaining story.

Is there a message in the Salt that you want readers to grasp?
I try not to beat readers over the head with messages in my fiction, but as Salt is partly a reaction to the terrible way we’ve treated our only home, the message is a reminder that we need to stick together, and that we’re all the same regardless of who we are or we’re we are from. There are other themes and messages in there, but I’ll leave those for readers to find.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Salt?
I’ve spent considerable time pondering this question and I can think of nothing I would have changed. If I were to re-write the story, I’m sure there would be a number of smaller things tweaked but there’s nothing that I think would require substantially changing. Of all the books I’ve written, I think Salt is the closest in terms of what I had in mind and expected of it, which is to say, it’s probably my best book.

What are the three coolest things that have happened to you since becoming a published author?
That’s a tough one. Because I spend of my time in the office writing or publishing, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to experience cool things, but I would probably say selling Salt and Soil to Amazon’s publishing imprint 47North was pretty cool. Another cool thing was having audio versions made of some of my other books. That was a thrill to hear an accomplished actor perform my words. Overall though, writing full time is by the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else.

Tell us about other projects you’re working on.
I’m always busy with a lot of concurrent projects as I write under a number of pen names (which remain secret). But as Colin F. Barnes I’m currently in the final editing stages of writing the follow up to Salt—Soil. Other than that, I’m working on a new SF-thriller, and a space-based thriller with my cowriter, Darren Wearmouth. Both projects are in early stages at the moment so I can’t say much else on those.

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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